“I want to be alone for a whole summer, and get to the very dregs of life. I want to be as idle as I can, so that my soul may have time to grow. Nobody shall be invited to stay with me, and if anyone calls they will be told that I am out, or away, or sick . . . Wouldn’t a whole lovely summer, quite alone, be delightful?’
This delightful companion to the famous Elizabeth and her German Garden is a witty, lyrical account of a rejuvenating, solitary summer filled with books and Elizabeth’s reflections on her beloved garden. Descriptions of magnificent larkspurs and burning nasturtiums give way to those of cooling forest walks. Yet the months aren’t as solitary as she’d planned: there’s still her husband to pacify and the April, May and June babies to amuse.”
Arnim begins with a mention of Thoreau, which appealed to me. I’ve recently struggled reading Walden, despite enjoying the beginning and its premise so much. However, Arnim explains the reason behind my difficulties with remarkable precision: “[Thoreau] is a person who loves the open air, and will refuse to give you much pleasure if you try to read him amid the pomp and circumstance of upholstery; but out in the sun, and especially by this pond, he is delightful.” This beautifully written explanation makes so much sense.
I find Arnim ideally suited to spring, but The Solitary Summer is perfect to read here in Italy. Not to make you jealous, but the sun is beaming down, the Bay of Naples is on the horizon, and nature is flourishing with yellows and purples. The terrace on which I am sitting isn’t far from utopian.